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Book Collecting FAQs

Condition Guidelines
Glossary of Terms
What should I collect?
What is a first edition?
What is the difference between an edition, printing, issue and state?
How do you identify a first edition, first printing?
A book that is signed versus inscribed?
How important is condition?
How do I care for my books?
What about insurance?
Can you estimate the value of my book(s)?
Do you buy books?
Collecting Resources - Books
Collecting Resources - Internet

Please Note: All books listed as first editions are first printings, unless otherwise noted. All books are guaranteed to be as described in their listing or they may be returned for a full refund, postage included, within 7 days of receipt, provided they are received back in the same condition. All books are preserved and sold in archival dust jacket protectors and are packaged securely for shipment. Our highest grade for book condition is "fine."

Bloody Rare Books, LLC is a member of the New Hampshire Antiquarian Booksellers Association (NHABA), Independent Online Booksellers Association (IOBA), The New England Independent Booksellers Association (NEIBA), Learn About Movie Posters Approved Dealer Association (LAMP) and BBB Accredited Business and Online Reliability Programs (BBB).


Among rare book sellers and collectors, there is no official or universally accepted code of book evaluation and condition, though most dealers do their best to represent a book's condition as accurately as possible. The most commonly used terms to describe a book's condition, and hence it's intrinsic value, include the following: Fine, Near Fine, Very Good and Good. Always keep in mind that these terms, and how they are applied to a specific copy of a rare book, are subjective and will vary based on the seller's experience and interpretation. Please refer to our glossary for an explanation of the defined terms you may see in our listings.

This is our highest grade. A book and/or dust jacket listed in this condition should be almost "like new" with only very minor signs of use, wear and/or rubbing. Any flaws are usually described in the book's listing. A fine copy, particularly if it is of a rare book or rare in that condition, will usually carry a substantial premium in price.

Near Fine
A book and/or dust jacket in near fine condition cannot be classified as fine because it has a greater accumulation of minor flaws and signs of use than a fine copy. It's flaws are usually described in the book's listing. A near fine copy is still an extremely presentable and collectible copy, just not as close to "like new" as a fine copy.

Very Good
A book and/or dust jacket in very good condition will still be very presentable and in generally sound condition, but it will have visible flaws, including minor fading or staining to covers, rubbing of the extremities, chipping at the spine ends, fraying of cloth, and/or soiling and foxing. A plus (+) or minus (-) sign may be added to a very good designation in order to account for the wide range of condition this classification presides over.

A book in good condition will show considerably more wear than grades which precede it and is usually not preferred by collectors unless it is highly rare or of considerable historical significance.

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Advance Reading Copy (ARC) / Uncorrected Proof - These are sent out to booksellers and reviewers in advance of the book’s publication to help drive sales and promote the book. The construction of the ARC is different than the trade version of the published book in that they are often bound in laminated paper covers or color printed wrappers. From ARC's, corrections and revisions will be made before the first published printing is produced.

Association Copy - When the author signs a book to another author, a well-known person, or someone else associated with the author. It can also be a copy (not necessarily signed) which was owned by another author.

Back / Backing - The margin along which the leaves of a text block are attached.

Boards - The front and back covers of a hardcover book, usually covered in paper or cloth, sometimes in leather (for special or limited editions).

Book Club Edition (BCE) - Refers to the fact the book was printed by a book club under license from the publisher and is therefore not a true publisher's edition of the work. BCE's are generally undesirable to collector's and of little to know value.

Bookplate - A printed label which is adhered to the book. It is usually found in two forms: ownership or author signature. Books with bookplates affixed are generally worth less than if the author signed the physical book directly, or such bookplate did not exist at all.

Colophon - A notation in limited, small-press, and certain other books indicating publication and limitation details. It may contain information on the number of books printed, where it was published, the paper type, typefaces used and by whom it was printed and bound.

Copyright Page - In modern trade editions, the copyright page – usually the verso of the title page – contains the publication and copyright information. The edition identifier (if any) is usually found on this page.

Dedication Copy - Indicates the author has inscribed the book to the person to which it was dedicated.

Dust Jacket (dust cover or dust wrapper) - The paper cover issued with a hardcover book, usually finely illustrated and detailed.

Dust Jacket Protector - A clear plastic or mylar cover which wraps around the dust jacket in order to protect it.

Edgewear - Refers to the worn edges of a book’s covers or jacket. Most commonly found where the spine and cover meet but also on the cover or jacket's other edges.

Edition - The copies of a book which originate from the same plates or setting of type.

Endpapers - The "endpapers" are located on the inside of the front and back boards. When you open either board, you will notice one leaf of paper, half of which is pasted to the inside of the board, and half of which is left as a blank page; the latter being referred to as the free endpaper or flyleaf.

Errata Slip - A small piece of paper laid into a book detailing printing errors that were made (i.e. typos, misplaced text, etc.)

Ex-Library - Refers to the fact that a book once belonged to a lending library. These are generally undesirable for collectors because they have been taped, glued, marked with library stamps, or security devices.

First Appearance - This term can refer to several different concepts:
  • The first time an author appears in print;
  • The first time a specific work of an author appears; or
  • The first time a specific subject is treated in book form.
First Book - The first book appearance by an author (usually refers to a complete work by the author and not merely a short story). An author's first book may be of considerable interest and value to a collector, depending on the author.

First Edition - All of the copies printed from the first setting of type. The term first edition can include multiple printings if all are from the same setting of type. Every printed book has a first edition and may or may not have later editions. A later edition would, by its nature, have substantial changes in the printing plates, such as the addition of a new preface or new chapter or other major changes throughout the text. It is, therefore, often printed from a complete resetting of the type. When book collectors use the term first edition, they are referring to the first printing of the first edition and if there are different states or issues, the earliest of those.

First Thus - The first edition published in the present form. The term first thus often denotes that a book was published previously by a different publisher.

Flap - The portions of the dust jacket that wraps around the inside of the cover. The front flap usually contains the blurb or description of the book and the back flap may include the author’s photo and/or a short bio.

Foxing - Spotting that appears on the pages of a book, usually caused by mold, mildew, or impurities within the paper such as acidity.

Free Endpaper - Refers to the "free" page located opposite the pastedown.

Gift Inscription - Someone, NOT THE AUTHOR, that has written something on the book before giving to someone else as a gift. Generally devalues the book, unless it is by a famous person.

Half-Title Page - The page which precedes the title page and contains only the title of the work.

Hardcover - Refers to a book bound between boards, which are usually covered in paper, cloth, or sometimes leather.

Hinges - Interior or exterior points where the covers meet the spine of the book. The weakest part of the book, the hinges are often the first place wear and tear occurs. Generally referenced in rare book listings when the hinges begin to separate from each other or begin to loosen, particularly when the endpapers have become unglued at the hinge.

Inscribed or Presentation Copy - Refers to when an author has signed a book to a specific person. It may sometimes include additional thoughts, sayings or other copy by the author.

Issue - A portion of an edition printed or published deliberately in a distinct form different from the rest of the printing (in paper, binding, format, etc.). The difference between issue and state is that the former relates to changes made purposely by the printer or publisher and therefore intentionally meant to be treated as a separate unit.

Leaf - A single sheet of paper, or one half of a folded sheet of paper. Each side of a leaf in a book is a page.

Limited Edition - Refers to when a books’ publication is limited to a certain number of copies, which may or may not be numbered, lettered or signed by the author.

Pastedown - Refers to the endpaper that is glued to the inside of the cover.

Printing - Refers to the copies of a book that originate from the same print run, plates or type-setting at one time. For example, if 500 copies of a book are printed initially, such 500 copies would be considered the first printing of the first edition. If another 500 copies are printed thereafter, such later copies would comprise the second printing. Some publishers may consider later printings of a book later editions, such that the second printing referred to above would actually be considered a second edition by the publisher and labeled as such on the copyright page.

Recto - Refers to the right-hand page of an open book i.e., the front of a page.

Remainder - Refers to a book that has been sold to a bookstore or wholesaler at a reduced price by the publisher because it is out of print or overstocked. Usually designated by a mark which is typically made with either a marker or stamp. Remainders may or may not slightly lower the value of a book, depending on the work in question.

Signed - Refers to the signing of a book by its author (editor or illustrator).

State - Refers to the portion of a printing with changes, including minor alterations to the text made either on purpose or accidentally, insertions, the use of different paper without intending to create a separate issue, and/or other changes. For example, if a printer discovers broken type and decides to stop the presses and replace the broken type by resetting that portion of the page, the resumption of the printing would result in the occurrence of at least two states.

Sunned / Sunning - Refers to the fading of a book where it is most frequently exposed, usually at its spine or covers.

Tipped-In - Refers to the physical attachment of an item (or page) to the inside of a book (usually with glue).

Title page - Refers to the page toward the front of the book which precedes the text and carries on its recto the title of the work, the author’s name and the publisher's name.

Toned - Refers to the darkening of a book's paper (most often occurring at the page edges) as a result of exposure to sun light or high acidity.

Verso - Refers to the left-hand page of an open book i.e., the back of a page.

Wrappers - Refers to the covers of a paper-bound (or softcover) book.

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What should I collect?

Collect what you love! If your passion is true crime, then collect true crime. If it's fantasy, then collect fantasy. There will always be a market for books of all genres, so stick with what you love and come to know best. From there, the value is sure to follow.

What makes a book collectible and what determines it's value?

Of course, there are many factors that influence a book's collectibility and value. including:
  • Age - Was the book published in the 19th century or 21st century?
  • Scarcity - How many copies were printed?
  • Edition - Is it a first edition, first printing or a later edition? (See editions and printings)
  • Manufacturing - How was the book made? Is it leather bound, hand-sewn or slipcased?
  • Condition - Is the book in fine condition or just good condition?
  • History - Is there any historical significance or other interesting circumstance related to the book?

You should attempt to find out the answers to all of these questions before you make a purchase. If you're purchasing online, be sure to read the book's listing in detail and view all photographic images of the book provided. If an image is not provided, there may be a reason for it. Finally, always be sure the book's condition as represented in its listing is guaranteed by the seller, so that you may return it if you are not satisfied upon receipt.

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What is a first edition?

A first edition, as it is known in the antiquarian book selling and collecting community, is the very first printing of a book from a single set of plates in the publisher's first print run. Reference to the term "first edition" refers to the publisher's first edition, first printing of the book. A first edition, second printing is not considered a "first" by either booksellers or collectors. A "first" can only be the first printing of the first edition.

Why do many collector's primarily buy "firsts"?

Many collectors mainly concern themselves with the first edition, first printing of a book because it is the most valuable and collectible presentation of the book. Historically, first editions tend to appreciate substantially faster and higher than any other edition of the same book. This is for several reasons. First, it is a matter of economics. The first printing generally will have the smallest print run. Whereas, subsequent printings become necessary as a book's popularity increases, and hence it's print runs will. Furthermore, a first edition, by it's very nature, is the closest representation of the author's original manuscript and therefore best represents what the author wanted to convey. Subsequent printings of the book may stray slightly from the author's original intention or vision. In general, first editions will increase over time, or at a minimum, usually hold their value; whereas later editions and printings may not exceed their original value ever, and may even decrease in value over time.

Looking for additional information on first editions and book collecting, in general? Check out the following invaluable reference sources: Book Collecting 2000 by Allen and Patricia Ahearn (Putnam, 2000), and ABC for Book Collectors, 8th Edition by John Carter and Nicolas Barker (Oak Knoll Press and The British Library, 2006). These superb volumes are an asset to every collector's library.

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What is the difference between an edition, printing, issue and state?

An edition refers to copies of a book printed from the same plates in a publisher's print run. The first edition, first printing comes from the original, single set of plates and is, therefore, the first public appearance of the book to be sold. Each edition of a book can have multiple printings; each printing includes all of the copies of a book printed from the same plates at a given time. For example, an edition may include 5,000 copies of a book, 1,000 of which were printed initially, and 4,000 of which were printed six months later from the same plates. When corrections, additions, deletions or alterations occur in the printing process of a book after its initial publication, copies of these altered books will indiscriminately go on sale. An issue occurs when such alterations are intentionally made by the publisher for treatment as a separate, discrete unit. The result can be referred to as a separate issue of that edition. A state occurs when a portion of a particular printing, issue or impression, differs from other copies within the same printing, and for which the publisher does not wish to treat as a separate or distinct unit (or bring to the attention of the public).

Do later editions or printings ever become valuable?

The quick answer is, sometimes. For collectors, first edition, first printings are preferred because they tend to hold greater value. However, there are cases where later editions and printings of a book come to garner great value as well. This can be particularly true in the case of historical works (including travel and exploration narratives), where subsequent additions may come to include updated, improved and/or additional information, including maps, illustrations and other important materials not contained in preceding editions.

Some subsequent editions of fictional works may also increase in value over time, though this occurs with less frequency than works of non-fiction. An example of this phenomenon can be said to have occurred with the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, including The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, all of which sold sluggishly for the initial decades following their publication but exploded in sales during the 1960s as a result of growing popular interest in social trends and fantasy fiction. By the end of the 1960s, The Hobbit, for example, had already gone through fifteen print runs and two distinct editions, and all of them were collectible.

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How do you identify a first edition, first printing?

Without a publishing industry standard, identifying first editions is often a process of elimination. Here are some basic guidelines that you can use to identify many first editions:
  1. Familiarize yourself with how specific publishers identify their editions and printings. Do they always note "First Edition" or "First Printing" on the copyright page? Do they utilize number lines? Do they follow both practices?

  2. Look for the words, "First Edition" on the copyright page. But be careful. Many publishers will continue to carry these notations forward, beyond first edition, first printings.

  3. The appearance of a number line on the copyright page (such as 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1) can serve as a great indicator as to the printing number of a book. If a number line is present and it includes the number "1" in it, you can feel confident that what you are holding in your hands is a first edition, first printing. Subsequent printings of a book will be signified by the lowest number in the number line. For example, in the following number line 2 3 4 9 8 7 6 5, the number "2" is the lowest number. This means that what you have is a second printing copy of the book.

  4. If there is no price stated on the jacket, if the ISBN number bar code is missing, if there is an embossment on the lower back cover, and/or if there is no number line in an edition of a book that you have seen a number line in before, than you can be fairly confident that what you are holding a book club edition. Book Club Editions (BCE's) traditionally hold very little value, as they were not printed by the publisher, but were instead printed under license by the book club in question. Collectors tend to avoid BCE's at all costs.

For some excellent and more specific information on how to identify first editions and states by publisher, pick up a copy of First Editions: A Guide to Identification, Fourth Edition edited by Edward N. Zempel and Linda A. Verkler (The Spoon River Press, 2001), as well as A Pocket Guide to the Identification of First Editions and Points of Issue, both compiled by Bill McBride (McBride/Publisher). No collector should be without at least one of these invaluable assets.

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A book that is signed versus inscribed?

What is the difference between a book that is signed and a book that is inscribed? Which is more collectible? When an author signs his name to a book, usually in his own hand, the book is said to be "signed" by the author. A book that is "inscribed" by the author, refers to the signing of a book by the author to another person. For example, "Dear Elizabeth, Best Wishes, Dr. Henry Jekyll."

In general, the author's signature by itself tends to bring greater value to a book than an author's inscription because the personal nature of an inscription does not hold retain its appeal with subsequent owners of the book. Exceptions do occur, however; particularly in the case of author inscriptions to well known figures, personalities, other authors and the like. Or if there is a strong connection between the author and the recipient. Exceptions may also occur when an inscription states something unique, different or out of character for an author, or if a small sketch or drawing accompanies the inscription.

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Does a film make a book more collectible?

For some authors, adapting their work into film means the transition from little known writer to mainstream popularity. Philip K. Dick was hailed by his peers but received little public recognition until several of his books were adapted into film, including Blade Runner based on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Minority Report loosely based on the short story of the same name, and Total Recall, based on the short story We Can Remember It for You Wholesale.

For other authors, the adaptation of their book into film can mean big bucks. More than ten years after the release of Philip Pullman's controversial His Dark Materials trilogy, the first book (Northern Lights) was translated into the film entitled, The Golden Compass. Sales of the book nearly quadrupled after the film's release, making Pullman one of the largest grossing authors in history. For Stephen King, the making of Carrie into a film starring Sissy Spacek as the title character brought him critical acclaim and garnered Spacek an Oscar nomination, making Carrie one of only a handful of horror films to ever receive such an honor and starting King down a road of novel-to-film stardom, both in terms of dollars and fame. Although he had only received a nominal $2,500 advance for the hardcover release, he would go on to receive half of the $400,000 advance for the paperback rights sold by Doubleday to New American Library. Meanwhile, a few years later, the film’s final U.S. gross for 1976 would top $33 million (over $100 million in 2007 dollars, adjusting for inflation), more than 18 times its budget of $1.8 million!

Other well known books based on or written concurrently with a film can likely attribute their rising value today to the popularity of the film, particularly if it became a cult classic or was successful enough to spawn a sequel. Examples of this phenomenon may include the Stanley Kubrick films A Clockwork Orange (based on the book by Anthony Burgess) and 2001: A Space Odyssey (written by Arthur C. Clarke concurrently with the film). Another example may include Pierre Boulle's Planet of the Apes which spawned the original film and countless sequels.

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How important is condition?

To an avid collector, condition is everything! This is because the condition of the book, and its dust jacket, contribute significantly to its collectibility and value, particularly the more rare it is or becomes. For books that are less rare, but still sought after, condition may be the difference between the value of your copy and the 40 other copies that exist.

Condition Guidelines

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How do I care for my books?

Of course, books are meant to be handled and read. But with the proper care, they can also last for many years. Take the following steps and precautions in caring for and preserving your books and their condition:

  • Always clean your hands before handling your books. Or better still, wear clean, white cotton gloves. Either will prevent the oils from your fingers, and anything else you may be carrying on your fingers, from penetrating the book and its jacket.
  • Always provide adequate support to the book you are handling. Cradle it in your palms or purchase a book cradle if you prefer.
  • Never insert anything inside a book that may damage its spine or leave residue on its pages, including sticky notes, thick bookmarks, etc.
  • Never dog-ear pages or place your book face down.
  • Treat the dust jacket with the utmost of care.
The dust jacket (also known as the dust wrapper or dust cover), in and of itself, represents a large portion of the book's value, when well-preserved. So take considerable care in protecting and preserving it. The best way to do is to store it in an archival mylar (acid-free) sleeve protector. You can purchase these protectors from the following resellers: Book Jacket Selection Guide by Brodart:
Click here for Book Jacket Selection
Click here for Why You Should use Book Jackets

Storing your books

The two greatest enemies of books are sunlight and water. Be sure to keep your books away from direct sunlight and in relatively temperature and humidity controlled areas. Too much heat will increase the acidity of the paper causing it degrade over time, while too much direct sunlight will cause fading of the jacket and page block, will destroy leather bindings and eventually degrade the by drying it out and making it brittle.

Moisture caused by high humidity and water may eventually degrade a book beyond repair. Too much humidity will also encourage mold and mildew growth which can eventually destroy a book. Keep books away from water sources and use a hygrometer to measure humidity. Control moisture levels with a humidifier or dehumidifier, as they case may be.

The recommended temperature for book storage is between 65°F to 75°F. The recommended humidity level is between 40% to 55%.

For shelving, consider metal shelving bookcases with a baked enamel finish. If you are using wood shelving, be sure there is adequate venting between your placement of the books and the rear of the bookcase unit.

Generally, books should be shelved at a 90° angle and supported with other books or bookends in order to avoid spine damage. Do not shelve too many books on the same shelf as this could also cause damage to the spine. When retrieving a book from the shelf, never pull it from the top of the spine as this will cause the binding to detach from the book.

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What about insurance?

Generally, your homeowner's insurance policy may cover your books. It is highly recommended that you talk with your insurance agent to be sure. Blanket coverage may be adequate while certain titles may require an appraisal and special coverage in order to be covered for their replacement value. There are also insurance companies that specialize in collectibles, for those who have large collections.

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Can you estimate the value of my book(s)?

Although we are not a certified book appraiser, we certainly can give you a good estimate as to the value of your book(s) or collection. Please contact us for more information.

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Do you buy books?

ABSOLUTELY! We're always looking for books in the horror, science fiction, fantasy, and crime genres. Whether it's by lot or individual titles or even if you're just looking to off load some of your own collection, please contact us. We'll be happy to review your books.

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Collecting Resources - Books

Ahearn, Allen & Patricia. Collected Books: The Guide to Values 2002. New York: Putnam. 2001.

Ashley, Michael. Who's Who in Horror and Fantasy Fiction. New York: Taplinger Publishing Company, 1978.

Barron, Neil (editor). Anatomy of Wonder: Science Fiction. New York: R.R. Bowker Company, 1976. An invaluable classic in the field.

Bleiler, Everett F. (editor). The Checklist of Fantastic Literature. Chicago: Shasta Press, 1948. A bibliography of science fiction and fantasy titles published in English prior to 1948.

Burgess, Michael and Lisa R. Bartle. Reference Guide to Science FIction, Fantasy and Horror (Second Edition). Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2002.

Carter, John and Nicholas Barker (editors). ABC for Book Collectors, 8th Edition. New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press, 2004. Invaluable resource for novice and advanced collectors.

Clute, John and Peter Nicholls (editors). The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1993. Another excellent, comprehensive resource.

Clute, John and Peter Nicholls (editors). The Encyclopedia of Fantasy. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1997. Another excellent, comprehensive resource.

Currey, L.W. Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors: A Bibliography of First Printings of their Fiction and Selected Non-Fiction. Boston: G.K. Hall & Co., 1979.

Ellis, Ian C. Book Finds, 3rd Edition: How to Find, Buy and Sell Used and Rare Books. New York: Perigee Trade. 2006.

Jaffery, Sheldon. Horrors and Unpleasantries: A Bibliographical History & Collector's Price Guide to Arkham House. Bowling Green, KY: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1982.

Joshi, S.T. Sixty Years of Arkham House. Sauk City: Arkham House Publishers, 1999.

McBride, Bill. A Pocket Guide to the Identification of First Editions (Sixth Revised Edition). West Hartford, CT: McBride/Publisher, 2001.

McBride, Bill. Points of Issue: A Compendium of Points of Issue of Books by 19th-20th Century Authors (3rd Edition). West Hartford, CT: McBride/Publisher, 1996.

Porter, Catherine. Miller's: Collecting Modern Books. London: Mitchell Beazley. 2003.

Reginald, R. (editor). Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature: Volumes 1 & 2. Detroit: Gale Research Co. 1979. Comprehensive science fiction and Fantasy reference books.

Tannen, Jack. How to Identify and Collect American First Editions: A Guide Book. New York: ARCO Publishing Company, 1976.

Wilson, Robert A. Modern Book Collecting. Guilford, CT: The Lyons Press. 1992.

Zempel, Edward N. First Editions: A Guide to Identifictation (4th Edition). Peoria: Spoon River Press, 2001.

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Collecting Resources - Internet

Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America: ABAA

BookThink: Links to Sources BookThink

Caring for Your Books: Stanford University: Stanford University

Fine Books & Collections Magazine: For the Fine Book Aficionado

Firsts Magazine: The Book Collector’s Magazine

Illustrated Guide to Book Care: Oxford University’s Bodleian Library

International League of Antiquarian Booksellers: ILAB

Smithsonian Institution Archives: Smithsonian Archives

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